Okay, I know that title might have made you nervous, but no, I haven’t gone all-narcissistic, I actually want to tell you the story of a real saint who shares my name — St. Angela Merici.
I renounced my Catholicism in 2005 and I haven’t spent much time in Catholic churches since then, but I’ve got a friend in town and on a lark today we decided to stop in to see the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I wasn’t fully engaged in the visit. I mean, it’s a beautiful piece of architecture, but going to church isn’t my idea of fun.
I sat down in one of the pews and waited for my friend to do her thing. When I looked up from my phone (which you know my head was buried in for most of this experience), I noticed a stained glass window, which read St. Angela Foun Dress.
Now if you know me, you know there is nothing I love more than a found dress — especially a cute, sexy, sassy one. Last year I had 16 dresses made in Vietnam, now I talk about returning for another 16 on a weekly basis. But I digress…
Anyway I know it said Foun Dress – but I added the extra D and decided she was the patron saint of finding cute frocks. But then I got curious…
OK GOOGLE: What does Foun Dress mean?
Google mocked me. Duh… they were saying foundress, not Foun Dress. Bad letter spacing! This woman was TOTALLY not into fashion.
But, Saint Angela had something else going for her. Girlfriend said “no” to the Pope and I am totally digging that. Pope Clement VII asked Ms. Angela (as I am sure she was known at the time before the whole beatification thing) if she wouldn’t mind taking over an order of nursing nuns.
Now Angela, she was cool with helping sick people, but in her heart she had a bigger mission. She wanted to help poor and unmarried girls get an education, so she told Sir Clement: ‘no dice.’ She was out. How vulnerable! How brave!
Until Angela (and we are surfing the 1500s here) only nuns and rich girls were educated. This woman – she was a mother effing radical. Instead of taking the job the Pope offered, she went off and pulled some “Foun Dress” magic by starting the first order of teaching nuns. And these nuns who worked for her, they didn’t keep it close to home, they hit the streets and taught women and girls far beyond the cloister walls – many of them in some seriously shady neighborhoods.
Angela knew for a long-ass time she wanted to make a difference, but she waited 40 years to make a difference with her message…. Hemming and hawing between doing what everyone told her was the right thing and doing what was burning in her heart (which, let’s be honest, sounded seriously nutso.)
This is what it takes to write a book that makes a difference. You have to be brave enough to leave the safety of the cloister. You need to be willing to look the Pope in the eye and say “Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Infallible.” You need to let go of what’s easy, and commit to a message and a mission that means more.
You need to be a Foun Dress.
When St. Angela was dying she told her followers she would be more alive in her death than she was in her life. And here I am… nearly 500 years later inspired by her message, thinking about her legacy, and sharing her story with you. Girlfriend was right again!
What could you do in this life – with this life – that would make you even more alive after your death?
Wouldn’t you like to be a Foun Dress too?
P.S. Here’s the prayer to Saint Angela. I’m kinda digging it. What do you think?
Saint Angela, you were not afraid of change. You did not let stereotypes keep you from serving. Help us to overcome our fear of change in order to follow God’s call and allow others to follow theirs. Amen